When will there be a black WWE Champion? This is a question, wrestling fans (black and white) have been asking for years. In 1998, The Rock defeated Mankind in the Deadly Games tournament at the Survivor Series. Why is this not good enough? The Rock is mixed. His dad, Rocky Johnson, is black. He is one half of the first black WWE Tag Team Champions. His grandfather, the High Chief Peter Maivia, is Samoan. There are some who feel that does not count because he is not 100% black.
When Vince McMahon purchased WCW in 2001, their World Champion was Booker T. When he first appeared on WWE programing in June, he was still recognized as the WCW Champion. At the end of 2001, WWE decided to merge the two titles together and call it the Undisputed Championship. The Big Gold belt would be resurrected with a few changes in September 2002 and it was called the World Heavyweight Championship.
During the brand split the WWE Championship was exclusive to one show, while the World Heavyweight Championship was exclusive to the other. Though it was prestigious, the World Heavyweight Championship always seemed to be second to the WWE Championship. So, even if a wrestler wore this title, they were not recognized as the face of the company.
Many black Superstars have competed for the WWE Championship but only one is a former champion. As far as the World Heavyweight Championship is concerned, Booker T (Playing the role of King Booker) and Mark Henry each wore Big Gold. Both of these men could have easily been WWE Champion, but not including them, there are 15 others who could have also been WWE Champion.
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15 Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin was one of the best wrestlers on the roster. However, his greatest memories involve WrestleMania spots when he participated in the Money in the Bank Ladder match. Benjamin may not have been the most charismatic, but he could work and the fans loved his work. Athleticism goes a long way in wrestler, or at least it should, and Shelton Benjamin was packed full of athleticism.
14 Titus O’Neil
When the Prime Time Players parted ways….twice, O’Neil showed that he has charisma. He does all the right things outside of the ring. Whether it is the Stop Bully campaign, or partnership with Susan B. Komen, Titus O’Neil proves that he has what it takes to be a Superstar. With the WWE Championship around his waist, he will become that megastar. O'Neil still has time to achieve this goal.
When he first debuted in the WWE, he was the Road Dogg Jesse James' new partner and his name was K-Kwik. He was a midcard rapper, yet a workhorse. He then left and joined the newly formed TNA Wrestling. There he feuded with Jeff Jarrett and became N WA World Heavyweight Champion. He remained there before rejoining the WWE as R-Truth.
In 2011, R- Truth showed the WWE Universe a different side as he feuded with John Cena. Truth was easily the biggest heel in the company. Even if he didn't have a long reign, this would have been the time to put the belt on him.
MVP entered the WWE as one of the hottest free agents on the scene. Well, you were made to think that way with the vignettes that played before his debut. MVP would soon move into a year long feud with Matt Hardy over the United States Championship.
M.V.P. had the charisma that made fans easily hate him. With his mic skills and ability to tell a story in the ring, M.V.P. could have made a solid WWE Champion had the company given him a run with the belt.
11 Marcus Cor Von
Deemed the "Alpha Male," Marcus Cor Von left TNA to join WWE. When he joined the company, he was a big deal. Unfortunately, he was forced to retire due to family issues. Cor Von, almost broke through the glass ceiling during his time in TNA, but if his career did not end abruptly, the WWE would have been the perfect place for him to be the king of the mountain. Now, all we can do is wonder what would have been if Cor Von became WWE Champion?
10 Ahmed Johnson
When Ahmed Johnson entered the WWE in the mid '90s, fans had never seen anything like him before. He was a powerhouse, who was also very agile. Johnson says he was told by Shawn Michaels to stop doing high-flying moves because it would not look as special when Michaels did it. Ron Simmons noted that Johnson did not really understand the give and take of the business. Nonetheless, take away those issues and Ahmed Johnson is easily a candidate for being a black WWE Champion.
9 Tony Atlas
Prior to entering the world of professional wrestling, Tony Atlas was a multiple time champion in bodybuilding and powerlifting. When he entered the wrestling business, he teamed with Rocky Johnson (The Rock’s dad) and the two became the first African-American Tag Team Champions. Atlas made a name for himself as a single’s competitor when he became the first man to press slam and pin Hulk Hogan. Atlas had the look and with his championship pedigree in the world of bodybuilding and powerlifting the WWE Championship title would have solidified him as a true athlete.
8 Bobby Lashley
When Bobby Lashley entered the WWE, he had champion written all over him. Fans believed he was the guy. Lashley would win the ECW Championship and engage in a few feuds with John Cena for the WWE Championship. He may not be someone fans would like to hear speak, but give him a manager to go along with his ring work and look and Bobby Lashley is a WWE Champion.
7 Kofi Kingston
Kofi Kingston came in the WWE and captivated the WWE Universe with his high-flying moves. Recently, his Royal Rumble survival tactics have been stealing the show. But it was in 2009 when Kingston proved that he belonged at the top. Madison Square Garden (if you can make it there you can make it anywhere) was the place where Kingston owned the crowd as he hit Randy Orton with a leaping leg drop. His crowd connection proved that he could be at the top of the mountain and fans would buy in.
The King of the Ring tournament is the unofficial crowning of the “next guy.” Mabel, won the tournament in 1995 and was instantly the biggest heel of the summer. That year he went on to face then WWE Champion, Diesel, but came up short. Mabel said in numerous interviews that he was set to win the title, but the KLIQ got in Vince McMahon’s ear. Mabel would have been the best heel champion. Even after his feud with Diesel, he still managed to maintain momentum as a top heel when he along with Yokozuna broke the Undertaker’s face. Although King Mabel was a gimmick during the carton period, he was the perfect heel to become WWE Champion.
Ron Simmons was the first African-American World Champion when he was in WCW. He knew exactly what it took to be a World Champion and all of the responsibility that comes with it. When he joined the WWE as Faarooq, there was no reason he should not have been the guy. He was very easy to hate as leader of the Nation of Domination during the time of gang warfare in the company. Faarooq would have been a champion who would have drawn a lot of heat, even from those who were not wrestling fans.
4 Butch Reed
The Natural Butch Reed was a proven champion in the territories. There are rumors of him no showing a WWE event on a night in which he was set to win the Intercontinental Championship. Instead, Honky Tonk Man won the title and went on a record-setting run with the strap. Reed has denied these rumors.
Reed was the full package: he had the look and he was a workhorse. Remember, during the '80s, those who held the Intercontinental Championship were the workhorses of the company. With his ability and being a proven champion in many territories, it would have been fitting for the Natural Butch Reed to be WWE Champion.
3 Bad News Brown
When there are rumors that you stood toe-to-toe with Andre the Giant, true or not, people know that you are someone who is not to be messed with. Bad News Brown was the original Stone Cold Steve Austin. He was a loner. In a time where the Bobby Heenan had a lot of the top heels and most of the faces were always allies, Bad News Brown stayed to himself. He would have been a perfect candidate to be WWE Champion because he was easily one of the biggest heels in the company. According to Bad News, he was promised to be the first black champion.
2 Junkyard Dog
In the 1980s, Hulk Hogan was in his prime and running wild. However, there was a time during this period where a certain Superstar was perhaps more popular. His name was Junkyard Dog. JYD was one of the most charismatic Superstars in the company. The children loved him and one thing they looked forward to was an opportunity to get in the ring with him. Even though Hogan was the man, JYD still should have been rewarded for the WWE Championship.
1 Ernie Ladd
At 6’9, 320 lbs, The Big Cat Ernie Ladd was one of the biggest heels literally and figuratively in the WWWF. He had a lot of notable feuds with Andre the Giant. He was the full package. He could talk and he was very skilled in the ring. Ladd faced Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, and Bob Backlund for their WWWF Championships, but was not successful. With all of these championship matches, with his size and his charisma, the Big Cat Ernie Ladd should have easily been the first black WWE Champion.
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